A New Approach to Medical Missions

In 2021, with medical mission trips still on hold, and travel only resuming slightly, the Making a Difference Foundation looked at their medical mission trips to figure out a way to still help providers get to communities that needed help.

Out of that, the foundation decided to use our grant program funds to support our partners who are able to travel. Every few months, the Making a Difference Foundation will highlight a specific medical mission trip from one of our amazing nonprofit partners. Information about the trip will be provided and the foundation will offer a limited number of financial grants to go towards the program cost of the trip.

We are so excited to share that our first trip took place in November 2021 over Thanksgiving. The Making a Difference Foundation was able to help financially support two providers to participate in this medical mission trip to Guatemala with International Medical Relief.

One of the providers, Dr. Lynn Smith, was reflecting on his experience, and put the proverbial pen to paper…

“As I sat in a small café in the Guatemala City airport, I reflected over the past week that had been spent in Guatemala on a service mission with International Medical Relief.

While I waited for my typical Guatemalan breakfast of black beans, eggs, plantains, cheese, and handmade corn tortillas, I recognized it had been a great week. Over the years I have come to know that all service projects are not equal, but that they are all good in one way or another. This trip had been a very good one for the books. But I couldn’t put my finger on why it was such a wonderful trip. Mulling it over in my head I thought, was it where we stayed? (In Antigua – an old city in a valley amongst towering volcanoes?) Was it the small Puebla’s we visited on the base of the Volcano Agua? Or was it seeing, tasting, and smelling the formation of chocolate from cacao beans at Antigua chocolate? Maybe it was walking among the live and dead volcanoes of Guatemala? Perhaps it was witnessing the green coffee plantations on the sides of Volcano Agua and the glowing top and bellowing smoke of the Volcano Fuego.

Then I recalled one Friday. We headed out at 6:30am for a small village along the Pacific coast about 1 ½ hours away. We drove past towering volcanoes, coffee, and macadamia nut trees, out of the mountains toward the coast. Sugarcane fields were all around us. Then banana trees. There were pockets of small huts where I believe people lived. We ventured down dirt roads though fields turning off to a school where over 100 people were waiting to see us. The day was hot, and the work was hard. We saw patient after patient with very little breaks in between. Early in the afternoon, I saw a lady in her mid-70’s, with dirty feet and legs from walking in the muddy fields to get to the clinic. She complained of lack of sleep, no appetite, and headache. After an exam and questions I found she was losing weight and had stomach problems. As I was thinking of how to help her, her daughter walked in. The daughter explained that her father had died 4 months ago, and her mother just couldn’t get over it. I then spent time listening to my patient explain about her grief from the passing of her husband. She literally had a broken heart.  I could see she was holding inside all that sadness and pain. As I told her it was ok to cry, tears flowed down her cheeks like rivers. We were able to touch hearts even through masks and gloves. She gently put her head on my arm and just cried and cried. I hope her heart will now begin to mend. However, I do know my heart has been changed.

Breakfast finally arrived. I slowly ate my Guatemalan meal realizing the trip was special because of the people that had touched my heart and changed me for good. Maybe, just maybe, I also had also touched someone for good.”

Author: Dr. Lynn Smith

Trip: Guatemala, November 2021, International Medical Relief

About the author

Margaret Vallejo

I am passionate about helping others make a difference - in their backyards or around the world. When not working for others you can find me spending time in the mountains, with friends, and family.

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